Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 457–482 | Cite as

A Review and Critique of the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ)

  • Barbara A. Gutek
  • Ryan O. Murphy
  • Bambi Douma


This paper reviews and critiques the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ), “...a self-report inventory representing the first attempt to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment in a manner that met traditional psychometric standards” (Fitzgerald, Gelfand, & Drasgow, 1995, p. 427). Widely used by its developers and others as a measure of sexual harassment, the SEQ is not a finished product, has a number of problems, and has weak psychometric properties. Because of inconsistencies (e.g., in time frame, number of items, wording of items), the SEQ lacks the advantages of standardized measures, such as the ability to assess changes over time. It defines sexual harassment very broadly, having the effect of distorting findings about sexual harassment. Most importantly, it is not clear what or whose definition of sexual harassment the SEQ assesses.

Sexual harassment measurement validity sex discrimination employment law 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arvey, R. D., & Cavanaugh, M. A. (1995). Using surveys to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment: Some methodological problems. Journal of Social Issues, 51(1), 39–52.Google Scholar
  2. Barak, A., Fisher, W. A., & Houston, S. (1992). Individual difference correlates of the experience of sexual harassment among female university students. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 22,17–37.Google Scholar
  3. Barak, A., Pitterman, Y., & Yitzhaki, R. (1995). An empirical test of the role of power differential in originating sexual harassment. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 17,497–517.Google Scholar
  4. Brooks, L., & Perot, A. R. (1991). Reporting sexual harassment: Exploring a predictive model. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15,31–47.Google Scholar
  5. Cortina, L. M. (2001). Assessing sexual harassment among Latinas: Development of an instrument. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 7(2), 164–181.Google Scholar
  6. Cortina, L. M., Swan, S., Fitzgerald, L. F., & Waldo, C. (1998). Sexual harassment and assault: Chilling the climate for women in academia. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22,419–441.Google Scholar
  7. Donovan, M. A., & Drasgow, F. (1999). Do men's and women's experiences of sexual harassment differ? An examination of the differential test functioning of the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire. Military Psychology, 11(3), 265–282.Google Scholar
  8. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (1980). Guidelines on discrimination because of sex. (Sect 1604.11). Federal Register, 45,74676–74677.Google Scholar
  9. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (1993). Policy guidelines. 29 C.F.R. 1609.1, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  10. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (1997). Guidelines on discrimination because of sex. 29, (Sect 1604.11) (b). Federal Register, 62,12033–12051.Google Scholar
  11. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Dial Corporation. (2002). Northern District, Ill., No. 99 C 3356.Google Scholar
  12. Fitzgerald, L. F. (1990). Assessing strategies for coping with harassment: A theoretical/empirical approach.Paper presented at the Midwinter Conference of the Association forWomen in Psychology, Tempe, Arizona (cited in Fitzgerald et al., 1995).Google Scholar
  13. Fitzgerald, L. F., Drasgow, F., Hulin, C. L., Gelfand, M. J., & Magley, V. J. (1997). Antecedents and consequences of sexual harassment in organizations:Atest of an integrated model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82,578–589.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Fitzgerald, L. F., Gelfand, M. J., & Drasgow, F. (1995). Measuring sexual harassment: Theoretical and psychometric advances. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 17(4), 425–445.Google Scholar
  15. Fitzgerald, L. F., & Hesson-McInnis, M. (1989).The dimensions of sexual harassment:Astructural analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 35,309–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fitzgerald, L. F., Magley, V. J., Drasgow, F., & Waldo, C. R. (1999). Measuring sexual harassment in the military: The Sexual Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ-DoD). Military Psychology, 11,243–263.Google Scholar
  17. Fitzgerald, L. F., & Shullman, S. (1985). The development and validation of an objectively scored measure of sexual harassment.Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Los Angeles. (cited in Fitzgerald, et al., 1988 and Fitzgerald, Gelfand, et al., 1995).Google Scholar
  18. Fitzgerald, L. F., Shullman, S. L., Bailey, N., Richards, M., Swecker, J., Gold,Y., et al. (1988). The incidence and dimensions of sexual harassment in academia and the workplace. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 32,152–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fitzgerald, L. F., Swan, S., & Fischer, C. (1995). Why didn't she just report him? The psychological and legal implications of women's responses to sexual harassment. Journal of Social Issues, 51,117–138.Google Scholar
  20. Fitzgerald, L. F., Swan, S., & Magley, V. J. (1997). But was it really sexual harassment? Legal, behavioral, and psychological definitions of the workplace victimization of women. In W. O'Donohue (Ed.), Sexual harassment: Theory, research, treatment(pp. 5–28). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  21. Frazier, P., Cochran, C. C., & Olson, A. M. (1995). Social science research on lay definitions of sexual harassment. Journal of Social Issues, 51,21–38.Google Scholar
  22. Gelfand, M. J., Fitzgerald, L. F., & Drasgow, F. (1995). The structure of sexual harassment:Aconfirmatory analysis across cultures and settings. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 47,164–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ghiselli, E. E., Campbell, J. P., & Zedeck, S. (1981). Measurement theory for the behavioral sciences. New York: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  24. Glomb, T. M., Munson, L. J., Hulin, C. L., Bergman, M. E., & Drasgow, F. (1999). Structural equation models of sexual harassment: Longitudinal explorations and cross-sectional generalizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84,14–28.Google Scholar
  25. Glomb, T. M., Richman, W. L., Hulin, C. L., Drasgow, F., Schneider, K. T., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1997). Ambient sexual harassment: An integrated model of antecedents and consequences. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 71,309–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gruber, J. E. (1989). How women handle sexual harassment: A literature review. Sociology and Social Research, 74,3–9.Google Scholar
  27. Gruber, J. E., & Bjorn, L. (1982). Blue-collar blues. Work and Occupations, 9,271–298.Google Scholar
  28. Gutek, B. A. (1985). Sex and the workplace.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  29. Gutek, B. A., & Done, R. (2001). Sexual harassment. In R. K. Unger (Ed.), Handbook of the psychology of women and gender(pp. 367–387). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  30. Gutek, B. A., Done, R., Swindler, S., & Stockdale, M. S. (2002). A short measure of sexual harassment.Manuscript in preparation, University of Arizona.Google Scholar
  31. Gutek, B. A., & Koss, M. P. (1993). Changed women and changed organizations: Consequences of and coping with sexual harassment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 42,28–48.Google Scholar
  32. Gutek, B. A., Nakamura, C. Y., Gahart, M., Handschumacher, I., & Russell, D. (1980). Sexuality in the workplace. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 1,255–265.Google Scholar
  33. Hay, M. S., & Elig, T. W. (1999). The 1995 Department of Defense Sexual Harassment Survey: Overview and methodology. Military Psychology, 11(3), 233–242.Google Scholar
  34. Houston, S., & Hwang, N. (1996). Correlates of the objective and subjective experiences of sexual harassment in high school. Sex Roles, 34,189–204.Google Scholar
  35. Kidder, L., & Judd, C. M. (1986). Research methods in social relations(5th ed.). New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  36. Knapp, D. E., Faley, R. H., Ekeberg, S. E., & DuBois, C. L. Z. (1997). Determinants of target responses to sexual harassment: A conceptual framework. Academy of Management Review, 22,687–729.Google Scholar
  37. Lengnick-Hall, M. L. (1995). Sexual harassment research: A methodological critique. Personnel Psychology, 48,841–864.Google Scholar
  38. Lott, B., Reilly, M. E., & Howard, D. (1982). Sexual assault and harassment: A campus community case study. Signs, 8,296–318.Google Scholar
  39. Magley, V. J., Hulin, C. L., Fitzgerald, L. F., & DeNardo, M. (1999). Outcomes of self-labeling sexual harassment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84,390–402.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Mazzeo, S. E., Bergman, M. E., Buchanan, N. T., Drasgow, F., & Fitzgerald, L. (2001). Situation-specific assessment of sexual harassment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 59,120–131.Google Scholar
  41. Murray, B. (1998). Psychology's voice in sexual harassment law. American Psychological Association Monitor, 29(8). (We use quotations from forensic psychologist Laura Brown published in this article).Google Scholar
  42. Nunnally, J., & Bernstein, I. H. (1994). Psychometric theory(3rd ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  43. O'Connell, C. E., & Korabik, K. (2000). Sexual harassment: The relationship of personal vulnerability, work context, perpetrator status, and type of harassment to outcomes. Journal ofVocational Behavior, 56,299–329.Google Scholar
  44. O'Donohue, W. (Ed.). (1997). Sexual harassment: Theory, research, treatment(pp. 5–28). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  45. O'Hare, E. A., & O'Donohue, W. (1998). Sexual harassment: Identifying risk factors. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27,561–580.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Reilly, M. E., Lott, B., & Gallogly, S. M. (1986). Sexual harassment of college students. Sex Roles, 15,333–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schneider, K. T., Swan, S., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1997). Job-related and psychological effects of sexual harassment in the workplace: Empirical evidence from two organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(3), 401–415.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Stark, S., Chernyshenko, O. S., Lancaster, A. R., Drasgow, F., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2002). Toward standardized measurement of sexual harassment: Shortening the SEQ-DoD using item response theory. Military Psychology, 14(1), 49–72.Google Scholar
  49. Stockdale, M. S. (Ed.). (1996). Sexual harassment in the workplace. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  50. Thurstone, L. L. (1947). Multiple factor analysis. Chicago: University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Till, F. J. (1980). Sexual harassment: A report on the sexual harassment of students. Washington, DC: National Advisory Council of Women's Educational Programs, 35 pages.Google Scholar
  52. United States Merit Systems Protection Board. (1995). Sexual harassment in the federal workplace: Trends, progress, continuing challenges. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  53. Waldo, C. R., Berdahl, J. L., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1998). Are men sexually harassed? If so, by whom? Law and Human Behavior, 22,59–79.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Wasti, S. A., Bergman, M. E., Glomb, T. M., & Drasgow, F. (2000).Test of the cross-cultural generalizability of a model of sexual harassment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(5), 766–778.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Welsh, S. (1999). Gender and sexual harassment. Annual Review of Sociology, 24,169–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wiener, R. L., & Hurt, L. (2000). How do people evaluate social sexual conduct at work? A psycholegal model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 5(1), 75–85.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychology Association 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara A. Gutek
    • 1
  • Ryan O. Murphy
    • 1
  • Bambi Douma
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Management and PolicyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.School of Business AdministrationUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA

Personalised recommendations